Shelf Survey: The Best Things We Watched In April

From new releases to familiar favourites, there's lots to watch at home right now

With pandemic lockdown through April, we’re only getting more acquainted with our TVs.

Though theatres are shut down, there’s still plenty of new releases available on VOD and streaming, as well as old favourites to comfort us and we’ve got some ideas to get you watching.

We want to know what you’ve loved this month too: Let us know what the best thing you watched in March in the comments or on Twitter and help your fellow film fans out with some social distancing suggestions. For more ideas, check out what made our list in January, February and March.

Here’s what our writers were loving:

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

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Last year I was mostly looking forward to Honey Boy from Shia LaBeouf, which did not disappoint, but it turns out the former Even Stevens star was in another great film last year. The story of a young man with Downs Syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) who escapes from his caregiver (Dakota Johnson) and goes on a road trip with a ne’er-do-well (LaBeouf) to meet his wrestling hero (Thomas Hayden Church) makes for a very well rounded film. There are warm moments of subverted expectations, genuinely funny character moments, and even a tense conclusion and some very fun supporting actors and professional wrestlers mixed in. – Daniel Grant

Where to watch it: Crave

 

La Cienaga (2001)

I spent years going to TIFF to see Argentinean movies about class and colonialism working itself out at people’s summer homes (not joking), but somehow, until now, I managed to miss the best one that got that trend started. Lucrecia Martel has a marvelous ability to get depths of relationships across while also having a genius sense for creating unforgettable images. – Bil Antoniou

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Where to watch it: Criterion Channel

 

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

Eliza Hittman’s realist YA film about two small town girls who must travel to New York to get an abortion is a slow-motion horror movie about how society controls female sexual health and the dangers of living in the world as a teenage girl. The long take that gives the film its name – in which Autumn (newcomer Sidney Flanigan) is forced to answer increasingly personal questions that reveal a devastating truth – is the cinematic equivalent of a gut punch. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is achingly stark and beautiful; it is also exceptionally difficult to watch. – Joe Lipsett

Where to watch: rent on VOD

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The Killing (1956)

As a fan of noir, it brought me great pleasure to watch Kubrick’s deconstruction of the construction of the perfect crime. The Killing is a deliciously wicked saga of a ragtag band of petty thieves and their ill-fated plot. Kubrick’s meticulous attention to detail and surprisingly fluid camera fill out the story – rescuing it and his characters from mocking caricature to build instead a taut and suspenseful film that features one of the most sardonic endings in all of cinema. – Barbara Goslawski

Where to watch it: DVD, Blu-ray, rent on Google Play, YouTube, iTunes

 

Bad Education (2019)

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Hugh Jackman, linked to Wolverine and his musical performances, gets a chance to dig into a character whose crime may make Tassone seem like an outlier, but his mundane explanations and lack of remorse suggest otherwise. The crushing finale, where Jackman has a chance to see everything he’s given up, may be the finest acting he’s ever done. – Colin Biggs

Where to watch it:  HBO, Crave

 

My Life As A Dog (1985)

Lasse Hallström’s coming-of-age story offers an incredibly charming and sensitive look at one boy’s life in Sweden in the late 1950s. It’s both warm and humourous, touching and full of pathos as it follows young Ingemar as he copes with the death of his mother, a sometimes vicious older brother and school bullies while drawing upon his warm summer memories of time spent with his aunt and uncle to help him through his darkest days. It’s a feel-good movie without being too saccharine. Easy to see why it landed Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language and Adapted Screenplay. It feels like a good pick to introduce older kids to foreign films. – Rachel West

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Where to watch it: Criterion Channel, rent on iTunes

 

Trolls World Tour (2020)

Okay, it’s not the greatest movie, even by kids’ movie standards. My fellow That Shelf contributors and true movie nerds will murder me for this, but I would never have paid full price to see this in the theatre; however, after being stuck indoors with two bored and cranky young humans for many weeks, I happily forked over the fee to watch this on streaming, just so they could have the experience of watching a new movie during its opening week. That said, this movie surprised me; its animation is delightfully inventive, and while the story and plot are wafer-thin, it’s got a nice message about individuality, and some stellar voice work from the cast. It’s a fun, frothy thing to watch with your kids, and unlike in the theatre, you can pause it whenever they have to go pee. 🙂 – Jenny Bullough

Where to watch it: on VOD, iTunes

 

BMX Bandits (1983)

Hear me out! After a remote movie night with friends, we were browsing through the recommended related titles and this early 80s Aussie caper popped up. Though I was totally geared up to laugh at it, I was instead shockingly charmed by it. This is by no means a good, or even great film, but it is a fun and quick little chase movie with some competent acting and very serviceable writing. Colour me happy! I’m not usually one to celebrate steaming cinematic turds and had always avoided BMX Bandits for fear that it was a stinker like Airborne or Rad, but it is far above that low, low bar. – Deirdre Crimmins

Where to watch itAmazon Prime Video (US only), DVD

 


Cold War (2018)

I find my ‘best of’ lists usually hold up when revisiting films in subsequent years (minus the Labor Day blunder of 2013), but I think we collectively got it wrong in 2018. Sure, Roma is amazing and deserves lots of the praise it received, but in retrospect, there was a much better black-and-white foreign film that year. Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War rewards multiple viewings with its tragic love story that sees romance moulded and refracted with the changing political backdrop of post-war Europe. I’m continually in awe of the dexterity with which the film charts the changing social times through the evolution (and bastardization) of a simple folk song as it warps from peasant fable to jazzy ditty. The handheld cinematography during the dance numbers and Joanna Kulig’s showstopper of a performance also make Cold War the best take on A Star Is Born we got in 2018, as much as I love, love, love the one with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Plus that final shot with the wind in the grass? Chills down my spine every time. – Pat Mullen

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla

 

Gosford Park (2001)

Robert Altman proved many times over that he was a master storyteller. Still, you’d have been forgiven if your first thought upon hearing his plans for Gosford Park was “huh?” After all an English Country House murder mystery seemed an odd choice for the often subversive and satirical director. How wrong we all were. With its upstairs/downstairs class divisions and long laundry list of characters, this classic tale (here told by the servants) is tailor-made for Altman’s keen eye. The cast is a veritable who’s who of British talent–with vets like Helen Mirren, Alan Bates and Charles Dance mixing with newer faces like Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, and Tom Hollander. Maggie Smith is a catty delight and Jeremy Northam a treat as real-life matinée idol, singer, and composer, Ivor Novello. That’s really him singing, with his classical-pianist brother Christopher filling in on the ivories. Every bit of dialogue lands with precision, helped too by Patrick Doyle’s magnificent score. It’s not hard to see why it amassed seven Oscar noms nor why it garnered Julian Fellowes a win for Original Screenplay. This one is definitely worth watching or revisiting, when you have the time! – Emma Badame

Where to watch it: Netflix

 

Captain Marvel (2019)

After seven weeks of quarantine, I decided this was the perfect time to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order. Having only watched the first eight films so far, I’d have to say I enjoyed Captain Marvel the most. Yes, there are problems, like how Carol (Brie Larson) isn’t as flushed out as say, fellow Avenger Captain America. However, the witty banter between Larson, Samuel L Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn along with the unassuming orange cat, Goose, are entertaining enough to make you forget about whatever loose ends there might be. This is a great movie if you want a mental escape while eating popcorn in the afternoon. – Erin Fernie

Where to watch it: Disney+, rent on iTunes

 

Best TV show you’re currently watching:

Dave

Ozark – somehow season 3 gets even darker

My Brilliant Friend Season 2

The Eddy – woot special Kulig & jazz edition this month!

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

The Jeffersons

Barry

Parks And Recreation – rewatch time!

Outlander

Top Chef Season 17

The Great Canadian Baking Show – It is so pure and wholesome (although it is inspiring a lot of quarantine baking… and eating)

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